Feature Interview with Robert McGuirk pg ii

12. Recently, you employed Ebert & McKenzie. Please talk about the hiring process. Did you speak with others and what made you select them?

We did discuss other designers but Martin Ebert was our first choice. The works carried out at Turnberry and Royal Portrush by Martin were seen as a huge success. Another factor is that we host or co-host a significant number of R&A tournaments (10 from 2011-2021) and Martin was their “go to” architect, we felt that his appointment would be the best option. Martin and Mike Howard spend a significant amount of time investigating the club’s history and look to restore past features which was something we were very much in favour of.

13. Several past versions of Prince’s exist so … what are their marching orders?

For his work to the Himalayas we basically gave Martin a blank canvas. We had spoken to numerous course raters and the overwhelming feedback was that we had not used the duneland to give views of the sea, we had no holes facing the sea, no risk and reward holes and that our par three holes were all similar lengths. All of these comments have been addressed and the new feedback from our guests has exceeded expectations.

Here is Bloody Point, one of the new par 3s created.

14. What is the schedule of work? When will it finish? What’s been done?

We opened the Himalayas on May 1st and the course has bedded in very nicely. Works have now moved onto Shore/Dunes and the plan will be to remove obsolete/poorly positioned bunkers, renovate and reappoint tee positions, and  integrate grass paths to improve the flow of the course. We have plans to build a new par 3 on the Shore to overcome a pinch point between 7 Shore and 1 Dunes, this hole will face the sea but will have a different green complex to “Bloody Point” the par 3 added to the Himalayas. The works will be completed by the end of February.

15. What is an example of a poor or indifferent hole that you think will significantly be improved?

It was felt the weakest hole on the 27 was the 8th Himalayas. It was a straight away par 4 around 400 yards. The only redeeming feature was that it ended at the only double green at Prince’s. We moved the tee up on the dune to enable views of the sea and carved out wetlands both left and on the carry to the green. The holes measure around 300 yards but if you take on the green it plays more like 260 yards. The hole can be played a number of different ways from a 7 iron lay up of the cross bunker, a long iron aimed at a lone fir in the distance (we took down 400 trees on the new Himalayas) or a drive at the green. Martin lowered the swale on the left and the green falls away by around 2 meters on the right. Out of all the holes that have been re-designed this hole has been best received.

The 8th hole on the Himalayas nine.

16. Being so near Sandwich, Rye and Deal is the equivalent of Shinnecock, NGLA and Maidstone on Long Island – a tough neighborhood! Prince’s needs to have great holes. What is an example of a hole that you think will rival the quality of some of the famous ones along the Channel?

We feel being surrounded by great courses is a positive, Royal St George’s is one of my favourite courses and I am fortunate to play there with members on occasion. Prince’s greatest attribute is its location. We are set right on the shore line unlike our neighbours and with the recently upgraded Himalayas course we have great views of the sea. One aspect about Prince’s is that we have no weak holes now that the Himalayas has been upgraded and in my opinion the 7th Himalayas is a brilliant hole. This par 3 can play anything from a wedge to a driver depending on wind and has huge run off areas right and left of the green.

The 7th hole on the Himalayas nine features a pushed up green that is hard to hit and hold, especially when the wind is about.

17. How will Prince’s standout as a place to join? One differentiator is that you offer modern, comfortable on-site lodging. Can guests book rooms or only members?

There are many reasons to join Prince’s. We have a great history, being one of only 14 clubs to host The Open Championship notwithstanding the fact that Gene Sarazen used the first sand wedge to win the tournament. We are very relaxed allowing 4 ball golf at all times and we have competitions for our members every weekend. The practice facilities are amongst the best in the UK and we have a number of arrangements with clubs locally and abroad for our membership. Prince’s is located only 1hr and 20 minutes from London by train and our weather is generally warmer than anywhere else in the UK.

The Lodge is open to all, both members and visitors. Members receive a preferential rate in The Lodge as do visitors when they book a golf package.

The Lodge at Prince’s

18. The British private club model differs from the U.S. in that non-members are allowed to play unaccompanied at certain times. How much does your business model rely on outside play?

Here in the UK we only have a handful of what you would call private golf clubs which you can only be played with a member. At Prince’s we strike a balance among members, daily fee and hotel guests. We only have 400 members but they constitute 40% of the rounds played. Lodge golf and daily fee make up the rest and these percentages work well for us. Having 27 holes is a huge bonus as it is very rare that you cannot get on the course.

19. What would you like to tell golfers who are coming to the region?

We have a great stretch of golf in the South East with Prince’s, Royal St George’s and Royal Cinque Ports all within 5 miles of each other. The fact that all three clubs accept visitors including set 4 ball days makes the courses accessible. Prince’s is the perfect location to stay and we can arrange transport to and from the courses making the stay hassle free. The weather in the South East of England is normally better than both Scotland and Ireland plus we are only 1hr 45 minutes from Heathrow and 1hr 20 minutes from central London by train, so it’s easy to visit!